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Mahabharata & Modern Science: Babies Start Learning While Still in the Womb

A recent study shows that babies start learning while still in the womb – just like Mahabharata says.

Page from an illustrated Mahabharata manuscript - probably 18th century.  |  Source wikipedia.

Page from an illustrated Mahabharata manuscript – probably 18th century. | Source wikipedia.

Many thousand years ago, the story of Abhimanyu was written – a moving story of a young prince, who went headlong into a complex battle formation, the chakravyuh. Tragically, without knowing how to extricate himself from the chakravyuh. It was said that Abhimanyu learnt warcraft while still in his mother’s womb. This was always taken to be a metaphor – but a recent study shows that children do start learning, while still in the womb.

Warcraft or otherwise.

From the Mahabharata, Ahimanyu’s remains a popular story, memorable in the death of Abhimanyu. Then there was also the Ashtavakra narrative – the foetus who knew the vedas and upanishads, while still in his mother’s womb. Ashtavakra was so mortified with his father’s ignorance, that each time his father enunciated the vedas and upanishads wrongly, the Ashtavakra foetus corkscrewed in his mother’s womb. Finally born with eight spinal contortions – hence known as Ashtavakra.

In modern India, too, learning in the womb has remained a popular belief. Can such a belief be verified empirically? In any such study, to make statistical observational correlations, will be fraught with the danger of observer bias.

Nevertheless …

Babies start to learn language before they are even born, scientists have discovered.

Previously, it was believed that newborns begin to discriminate between language sounds within their first months of life.

But a new study indicates that babies have the capacity to learn and remember elementary sounds of their language from their mother during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Babies only hours old are able to differentiate between sounds from their native language and a foreign language, scientists have discovered. The study indicates that babies begin absorbing

‘We have known for over 30 years that we begin learning prenatally about voices by listening to the sound of our mother talking,’ said Christine Moon, a professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University, who led the research.

‘[But] this is the first study that shows we learn about the particular speech sounds of our mother’s language before we are born.’

Forty girls and boys, about 30-hours-old , were studied in Tacoma and Stockholm, Sweden.

The babies heard either Swedish or English vowels

Patricia Kuhl, co-author and co-director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, added: ‘We thought infants were ‘born learning’ but now we know they learn even earlier. They are not phonetically naïve at birth.

‘We want to know what magic they put to work in early childhood that adults cannot.

‘We can’t waste that early curiosity. The mother has first dibs on influencing the child’s brain.

‘The vowel sounds in her speech are the loudest units and the fetus locks onto them.’

via Babies begin learning language from their mothers while they’re still in the womb | Mail Online.


Hindu Muslim Bhai-Bhai – End of an Era

September 1, 2011 1 comment

Urbane, educated, certain local and foreign elements served the British, Pakistani leaders, Indian princes, appealed to Hindus, Muslims using religion – and gained everywhere. But in each case, India lost.

Bhishma on the Bed of Arrows (image source and courtesy - http://www.harekrsna.com). Click for larger image.

Bhishma on the Bed of Arrows (image source and courtesy - http://www.harekrsna.com). Click for larger image.

My grateful  acknowledgments are due to His Highness the Nizam and His  Highness the ruler of Mysore for their princely donations. The  Nizam is a Mahomedan prince. Any contribution coming from him in aid of a work like the Mahabharata could not but  indicate His Highness’s enlightened sympathy for literature in  general, irrespective of the nation or the creed which that  literature represents.  As an administrator, Sir Asman Jah promises to rival the  fame of Sir Salar Jung. So long also as an officer like  Nawab Sayyed Ali Bilgrami is about the person of His Highness … (from the foreword of The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa (Anusasana Parva) Translated into English prose Published and distributed by Pratapa Chandra Ray Published 1893 by Bharata Press in Calcutta . Written in English).

What’s religion got to do with this?

Soon after the 1857 Anglo-Indian War of 1857, we had the remarkable instance of the Baroda Gaikwad commissioning a ‘Basra’ pearl carpet for the prophet’s tomb at Medina, which was recently auctioned for US$5.5 million.

And here we have the case of a Muslim king, the Nizam of Hyderabad, who partly funded the translation and publication of the Mahabharata in English.

Coming storm

But, this was soon to change.

In 1905, Bengal was partitioned along religious lines, by Lord Curzon. West Bengal, Orissa, and Bihar on one side and the erstwhile East Bengal and Assam were divided into the other part. All India Muslim League and All India Hindu Mahasabha followed. The official logic was that Bengal was too large a province to be administered by a single governor.

An India that seemed possible and probable was brokento two pieces - and a Kashmir legacy left behind.

An India that seemed possible and probable was broken in to two pieces - and a Kashmir legacy left.

This explanation did not account for communal boundaries – and did not explain Curzon’s tour of East Bengal in February 1904, where he promised a separate zone for Muslim Bengalis.

Protests against this partition in the form of Arandhan (no food was cooked across Bengal), boycott of British goods, and Tagore suggested that Raksha Bandhan would be observed in a spirit of brotherhood between Muslims and Hindus. Lord Minto’s ‘reforms’ in 1909, was the next major step in division of India along religious lines.

Simultaneously, soon after the publication of Tarana-e-Hind (Song of India) in 1905, of the sare-jahaan-se-achcha hai-hindustan-hamaraa fame, Iqbal was sponsored by British authorities for ‘modern’ studies in Europe in 1906. In England Allama Iqbal joined with Major Syed Hassan Bilgrami, ex-Indian Medical Service, to form and promote the Muslim League in England, in 1908.

The mechanics of divide et impera

Major Syed Ali Bilgrami wrote the text for Simla deputation, headed by the Sir Sultan Muhammad (the Aga Khan), who with seventy ‘representatives’ of the Muslim community, asked the Viceroy for elections along communal lines.

The immediate cause for the Simla deputation was the matter of language. Soon after 1857, at Benares in 1867, with the expanding role of the State, a case for using Devnagari script was made. This issue simmered and in 1900, the Urdu-Nagri Resolution was notified by Sir Anthony Macdonald, Lieutenant-Governor, United Provinces, in April 1900 giving parity to Hindi as a official-language along with Urdu in UP. Muslim paranoia was watered and nurtured by the British.

By creating claims and supporting counter-claims, responding to alternate parties, the British administration created frenzy around a simple administrative issue. Pakistani historians to this day see this as “the machination of Dr. Feelan, District Inspector of Schools and Anthony Mac Donald, then Collector of Muzaffarpur, the two bitterest antagonists of Urdu”.

Major Syed Ali Bilgrami wrote the Simla address - presented to the Viceroy on October 1st, 1906, calling for separate electorates. (Image source and courtesy - storyofpakistan.com).

Major Syed Ali Bilgrami wrote the Simla address - presented to the Viceroy on October 1st, 1906, calling for communal electorates. (Image source and courtesy - storyofpakistan.com).

The rest of the story, most of us know.

Behind the man

Major Syed Hassan Bilgrami, an academic from Lucknow, was also from the same family as Sayyed Ali Bilgrami. Sayyed Ali Bilgrami was selected for employment by Salar Jung, one of the nobles in Nizam’s kingdom.

Syed Ali Bilgrami (Image source and courtesy - themuslims.in).

Syed Ali Bilgrami (Image source and courtesy - themuslims.in).

Designated as Imud ul-Mulk Bahadur, he presided over the setting up of Dairatul-Maarifil-Osmania, Hyderabad (or the Osmania Oriental Publications Bureau) in 1888. For some time, he was the tutor to the future Nizam of Hyderabad,

Connections everywhere

Sayyed Ali Bilgrami donated his own collection of books, manuscripts and texts to form a core for the Asafia State Library (1891). Of the initial nearly 24,000 volumes, nearly 16,000 were Persian, Arabic or Urdu. Some 7600 were in English and other European languages. There was, of course, no place for any books in Hindi, Telugu, Sanskrit, Marathi, Kannada – which was the languages used by more than 95% of the Nizam Kingdom’s population.

Sayyed Ali Bilgrami studied at Kolkatta where he also learned Sanskrit – and later translated the Atharva Veda. That possibly explains Sayyed Ali Bilgrami links to Kisari Mohan Ganguli and the publication of Mahabharata by Pratapa Chandra Ray – and funding through the Nizam Government.

Soon after 1905, Sayyed Ali Bilgrami became an activist in affairs of Urdu and Muslim affairs. Another member of the family, active academically, was Syed Asghar Ali Bilgrami who published Ma ‘athir-i-Dakan (Hyderabad, 1925) in Urdu and another study in English, called Landmarks of the Deccan (Hyderabad, 1927).

Collaboration Chronicles

Urbane, educated, the Bilgramis served the British, Pakistan, Indian princes, appealed to Hindus, Muslims – and gained everywhere. Post-independence, some of the Bilgramis moved to Pakistan. A few members of the family chose to remain in Hyderabad, and other parts of India. Today, they can be found in the UK, Germany, UAE – and many emigrated to the US.

This translation of the Mahabharata, by Kisari Mohan Ganguli and publication by Pratapa Chandra Ray, for which one of the Bilgramis arranged funding, remains the most popular and accessible work of the last 100 years.

Below are book extracts from a rather revealing and well-researched work on British colonialism in India.

Chronicles of Collaboration. Excerpts from Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic identity: the search for Saladin  By Akbar S. Ahmed, pages 56 and 64). Click to go source at books.google.com

Chronicles of Collaboration. Excerpts from Jinnah, Pakistan and Islāmic identity: the search for Saladin By Akbar S. Ahmed, pages 56 and 64). Click to go source at books.google.com

History we don’t see – staring in our faces

February 23, 2010 Leave a comment
Satellite images of Kampilya

Satellite images of Kampilya

Recently, imposing changes have been recognized in river courses in Pakistan (Sindh), Punjab and Rajasthan: a change of paramount importance has been the disappearance of the Sarasvati river around the 19th century BC, recorded in the rigvedic literature as the most prominent among the Indian rivers. This ecological disaster destroyed the developed Indus-Sarasvati civilization, compelling a considerable number of people to migrate and to settle down in other alluvial planes. In our satellite image it was possible to read the footprint of the arrival in the Ganges Valley of those migrating people. Of course, that intuition had to be tested on the field.

The Ca, Foscari University of Venice, the CNR of Padua and the VAISonlus (a non-profit association) organized the first field survey “Kampilya Mission” under the direction of Marcolongo and myself. On February 6, 1996, the second day of the expedition, we found the imposing walls of a fortified city.

In the following missions, in 1997 and 1999, we verified the regular rectangular shape of the layout of Drupad Kila, Fort of King Drupada, as it was called by the villagers. In fact, Kampilya is mentioned in the Mahabharata as the capital of the Southern Panchala Kingdom, at the time of the mythical King Drupada. The walls of the city measure 780 by 660 meters and are perfectly oriented toward the points of the compass. What is very surprising about this layout, orientation and size is that another city recently discovered in Gujarat, Dholavira, has precisely the same features. The plans of Kampilya-Drupad Kila and Dholavira coincide perfectly, something recognized also by Dr Bisht, the director of the excavations on that second town. The problem is that Dholavira was a town of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, 2,000 years older than Kampilya. This fact offered evidence of the continuity of only one urban model from the Indus-Sarasvati to the Ganges civilizations in the time frame of two millennia. (via Asia Times: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING INDIA Part 10: The Kampilya archeological project).

While India has been giving huge coverage to inane ideas and theories from various English speaking archaeologists, two Italians, Gian Giuseppe Filippi, Bruno Marcolongo, collaborated with ASI to do some interesting work.

Marcolongo has done interesting work in Italy, Mongolia and Yemen – part from India. Using remote sensing tools.

Mrtyu-Concept of Death in Indian Traditions

Mrtyu-Concept of Death in Indian Traditions

Gian Giuseppe Filippi, Professor of Indology, University of Venice, has written two (at least) very interesting books on Indian philosophy. One of his books, deals with “explores the Indian view of mortal existence–from an individual’s conception to his/her journey to the Kingdom of Yama–with rare scientific objectivity–by unveiling a complex network of sentiments, beliefs, scriptural references, customs, etc.”

What ever conclusions they (Filippi and Marcolongo) derived, were predictable – and simple. Something, that English speaking, Anglo Saxon historians have been trying to deny for the last 170 years. And Indians are wasting time, trying to convince these English speaking ‘skeptics.’

All this was not surprising. The sheer lack of coverage by Indian media was shocking. Apart from two really small write ups in two Hindi newspapers, there was no coverage of this project.

I am reminded of another Italian, Trombetti, who was the first to link and understand the link between Elamite culture and Tamil-Dravidian languages. A vital element, in understanding Mesopotamia, Assyrian, Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian and Egyptian history.

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